In Order to Add to Its Already Huge Amount of Debt, Mexico Will Build Passenger Train Lines to the US Border

In Order to Add to Its Already Huge Amount of Debt, Mexico Will Build Passenger Train Lines to the US Border

MEXICO CITY — He said Wednesday that Mexico’s huge, debt-fueled program to build passenger trains will not end when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador leaves office. Instead, it will double.

López Obrador said that Claudia Sheinbaum, who will be President-elect after him, wants to build three passenger train lines that will connect the capital to places near the U.S. border. She and López Obrador have agreed that she will build about 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) of passenger trains, which is twice as much as he did.

Sheinbaum said the trains would be electric and go as fast as 160 km/h (100 mph). Diesel is used by almost all of Mexico’s freight trains right now.

Sheinbaum said she wanted to build a rail line for about $22 billion from Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo, which is across the border from Laredo, Texas. The line would go about 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) long. But the most recent railroad projects in Mexico have cost a lot more than anyone thought they would.

Sheinbaum also said that she was planning a train line from Mexico City to Guadalajara in the west, which would cost about $3 billion more. Sheinbaum also said that if she had time during her six-year term, the rail line could be extended to border cities like Nogales, which is across the border from Nogales, Arizona, or to other border cities further west.

According to Sheinbaum’s plan, army engineers will tell private companies to build passenger lines on the same rights-of-way that private concessionary operators use to move freight now.

That might mean moving the old train lines to make room for the new ones. If the old lines have to be moved, it could affect the freight service that is already in place.

López Obrador had previously asked freight line owners to also serve passengers, but it looks like that plan has been shelved.

It was also said by López Obrador that putting up walls or fences around the planned high-speed train lines and getting back rights-of-way that squatters have taken over could cost a lot of money.

Private concessionary train operators who are already in place said they didn’t have anything to say about the plans right away or didn’t respond to requests for comment.

López Obrador said the project would be almost twice as big as the railway projects he oversaw. These included the $30 billion Maya tourist train on the Yucatan Peninsula, a railway across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that would connect the Pacific and Gulf coasts, and a commuter railway that would connect Mexico City to the nearby city of Toluca.

Because of the high cost of building those railways, López Obrador’s government has a budget deficit of almost 6% of GDP this year. However, experts aren’t sure how often the trains will be used in a country where most people already use cars, buses, or planes to travel the thousands of miles that the routes cover.

People who watch say that one of the main issues is that López Obrador’s and, it seems, Sheinbaum’s rail lines were planned with the mentality of “build it and they will come,” without really checking to see if there is enough demand to support passenger service to border cities that are far away.

In U.S. border towns, there isn’t much in the way of passenger rail infrastructure that could link to any Mexican rail lines that might be built.

Both López Obrador and Sheinbaum are from the Morena party. Sheinbaum was chosen on a promise to keep or improve all of López Obrador’s policies.

The president who is leaving office has always said that he regrets giving Mexico’s badly run state railways to private operators in the 1990s. Those operators mostly cut back on passenger services that weren’t making money.

Building train lines, on the other hand, is something he thinks will help the economy and create jobs.


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